This is the first in a series of posts we’re starting that will feature the businesses of our traveling friends and clients of Global Traveler Networks! We’re featuring amazing people who we 100% support and helping them spread the word about the good they are offering the world!
Iosif and Natalia of Mattera Life Designing & Psychotherapy are quite inspirational. We met them randomly over the internet and they kindly offered us a free first psychotherapy session of “couples therapy from a couple” as they call it. Their focus is in combining psychotherapy, metaphysics and spirituality to create a holistic approach to bettering your life. Originating from Romania but currently based in Bali , they conduct their sessions in person or via Skype. Most of their clients are people who have already broken out of the so-called “normal realm” of thinking and are looking for the next level of consciousness. Long term travelers and digital nomads could find them the most beneficial, since when living overseas its hard to know where to go or who to turn to if you would like to talk to a therapist. Also, local therapists from the country you are in might not understand your background and your nomadic lifestyle!
One of the most interesting things that we talked about in our session was our fears around money. Natalia and Iosif really opened our eyes to the difference between the “spending mindset” vs the “investing mindset. ” Whenever you are using money for any reason, do you think of it as “spending” i.e. the scary loss of money, or as “investing” into yourself. “God is in you, and you can trust god” said Natalia, “You must know that you will be given all that you need, when you need it”.
Mattera is picky about the people they take on for sessions as they are better suited to those who have already started along the path of expanding their conscious awareness. The best way to describe their target market might be “hippie traveler digital nomads”.
If you go to their website, mattera.life, you can sign up for a free first session so Iosif and Natalia can get to know you a little bit. They want to open doors for you inside of yourself, so you can search around for your own happiness. Some of their areas of expertise are helping people with limiting beliefs, emotional blockages and traumas, and accessing higher states of consciousness. Their theory is that by building your life in the right way, the universe will conspire to give you everything that you need.
Penang, Malaysia had been on our bucket list since before we even knew what country it was in (😳embarrassing)! One sleepy afternoon years ago, we were watching Anthony Bourdain on “Parts Unknown” stuff his face at Line Clear in Georgetown and decided then and there that any trip to Asia would have to include Penang. After all, it was street food heaven right? We had five nights planned! We decided to stay at the Tipsy Tiger Party Hostel because everyone on the backpacker trail was talking about it. The price was kind of high at 40 Ringgit for a dorm bed but included was free breakfast, all-day coffee and water, and two strong drinks at the bar. The bar area closes at 11 after the nightly beer pong tournament then everyone goes on a pub crawl down the street to Love Lane where you can continue the party as late as your heart desires.
The Tispy Tiger was a good time but after two nights of craziness we were ready for something more chill. Our second accommodation, The Frame Guesthouse, a very zen/minimalist place with cedar ceilings and antique stairways. We really liked our private room here and stayed for three nights enjoying the AC and waterfall showers.
The highlight of Penang for us was the street food. Every corner had different stuff and you could really experience the fusion of Malay, Chinese, and Indian cuisines. We tried to eat as much as possible, always opting for fourth and sometimes fifth meal. It was a hard life. Most of the food vendors have a few tables where you can sit and eat, and most require you to buy a bevarage- beer, soda or fresh-squeezed juice- if you use the table. It really was a street food heaven. Here are our favorites!
One of the best places to eat is the famous Red Garden Food Paradise. They usually have some singers and dancers in the center stage and around the edges there are so many different food vendors selling dishes from all over the world. It has a very classic feel with red plastic chairs and happy families sharing tables stacked with food. It’s always busy and opens at 6pm nightly.
My favorite late night spot was the 24-hour joint Line Clear. Always a line and barely a menu, they kind of yell “What do you want?” when you get to the front then they slop it on a plate with rice and you get a scoop of sauce from each of the curries. The food they sell is called nasi kandar, which pretty much means “country rice.” It’s simple and everything you ever wanted after having a few beers on Love Lane. Street Food Heaven indeed!
Georgetown is unique in Asia because it largely avoided the bombings of World War II and the following wars. Only a few bombs were dropped there so the old architecture has remained, giving the city a whole lot of character. The only negative is the lack of sidewalks; you basically just walk along the side of the road and hope you don’t get clobbered by a drunk, texting motorbiker. There was a lot of unique street art, most memorable of which were the cartoon wire sculptures depicting life in Penang throughout the years.
As in the rest of Malaysia, the mishmash of cultures and religious blends peacefully and beautifully in Penang. So, I’ll leave you with a sunset over the downtown mosque and Hindu temple.
From the Cameron Highlands we left early in a van headed east, our destination was the Perhentian Islands, Malaysia’s diving paradise. Down the hill we drove super fast through heavy rain. We passed some amazing rock walls that I hoped to come back to climb someday. The culture became more and more Islamic with most signs written in Arabic and few women without hijab. In Kuala Besut we were left at the jetty where the boats to the islands leave. Our boat was included in the transportation price but we had to pay 30 Ringgit each to enter the islands, a conservation fee. We loaded our stuff onto a boat after about an hour of waiting then moved everyone’s stuff around again a couple more times because no one took charge of telling us where on the boat to put the luggage. (Culture=no one likes to show authority.). The boat ride was overloaded and a little sketchy but we made it just fine. There are two islands, one with the resorts and an older crowd (Pulau Besar) and one a little smaller with the backpacker/diver folks (Pulau Kecil). We chose Long Beach on Kecil Island, a paradise with white sands and blue blue water. We stayed in a bungalow seconds from the water at the Lemongrass Guesthouse. The friendly owner explained the snorkeling options and we were excited to see some sea life. The area was a mecca for divers with amazing coral and sharks and sea turtles but we haven’t gotten into that whole scene yet – we are still stoked about snorkeling (for now).
From Long Beach you can hike to many other beaches on the island, the closest of which being Coral Beach, not as nice but having some cheaper (better?) food options. When we find decent food we usually will go there a bunch of times over a few days. Our spot was Ewan’s Cafe, midway on the trail from Long Beach to Coral Beach. They had a large menu of cheap Malaysian food and western favorites. We ate there maybe 6-7 times and it was all pretty good. Our absolute favorite spot though was at the end of the trail just onto Coral Beach, a guy with a sign Fatimah’s “Best Roti Canai” and it really was the best. Roti canai is a folded flat bread with bananas or egg or tuna inside and is served with curry sauce for dipping. You had to get there at the right time though because they would sell out rather quickly when the bread was ready.
The island was pretty relaxed during the day but at night several beach bars would open up and after 11 there was always a DJ playing electronic music that turned pretty clubby. The highlight was the fire spinners who would post up in front of each of the popular places. They were really talented, rivaling the best spinners we’ve scene at Burning Man. We watched them for hours and I talked to them about how they built their sticks, looking forward to making one myself. The beach was the only spot to be at night besides in bed under your mosquito net as the bugs got bad the further you strayed from the sea breeze.
Snorkeling was definitely the best thing we did on the Perhentian Islands. We payed for a tour through the Lemongrass where we were staying and left a little after 11am on a boat with another American, one French girl, and a group of Malaysians. They took us to several spots around the island – Shark Point, Turtle Bay, and a few others. I saw a two foot shark at Shark Point, small but cool, and at every spot there was amazing coral of all sorts. We saw beautiful schools of parrot fish, a green and blue sting ray, and the star of the show was a giant sea turtle. The turtle was so impressive and I was able to swim underneath it when it surfaced for air.
We took a pit stop for lunch at a local village near the Silver Mosque which was in the middle of the call to prayer when we arrived. The scene seemed surreal with the beautiful shining building and the village and the perfect blue sky reflecting in the water.
The sad part about snorkeling in the Perhentian Islands was the lack of education that the guides gave the tourists. Many of the local people couldn’t swim and would stand on top of the coral, breaking it with their fins. It was heartbreaking to watch, mainly because of how avoidable it was. With coral dying all over the world, it is more important than ever to take care of what remains. Elsewhere in Malaysia, we had started yelling at people when they threw trash on the ground because it ruins my world and your world and everyone’s world. I think just having the fear that some white dude is going to come yelling at them might keep them from doing it again. However, I didn’t feel right trying to tell the snorkeling guides that they needed to instruct these coral standers, and I don’t think it would have changed anything. Like I said before, in Malaysian culture no one likes to give directions or show authority over anyone else. But if I see a western person standing on coral I’m going to show you my scary side and it best be the last time you do it.
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Another interesting thing on the island was the giant monitor lizards. They would eat your kittens if you let them stray and our guesthouse host spent most of his day making sure his little kitties didn’t wander around the wrong corner.
We spent four lovely days in the Perhenthian Islands and it was a little sad to leave. But we were headed to Penang and we were so excited for the food. We carried our backpacks all the way across Long Beach to the pier, passing all the silly kids who had shown up with rolling suitcases. Seriously, why do so many people bring those things to the beach? We waiting around the pier watching a young Malaysian couple snorkeling in the water below. They were so different from us bare-it-all westerners, trying to swim while holding hands, the girl covered in hijab and a head-to-toe conservative swimming outfit. Even the men were nervous about taking their shirts off, always replacing them for pictures. Eventually we were shuffled onto a boat and made the rounds collecting people from other beaches before heading back to the main land.
We took a taxi from the pier to the bus station where we got a local bus to Kota Bharu. We stayed at Zech’s Guesthouse, owned by a super friendly older couple. Zech, a faithful Muslim, was excited to share a name with me. As I remembered from Morocco, when people hear my name it brings about many questions. I feel like there are more Muslim Zecks than Christian Zachs and the name seems to gain me instant respect. We talked a little bit after being shown all the room options and they told us about a great night food market where we got the blue rice which is colored with a flower and famous in the region. In the morning after his pre-sunrise prayers, Papa Zech drove us to the airport because it was too early for taxis. He told us of his recent trip to Mecca, a pilgrimage that he was proud to have finally completed. We arrived early like good travelers but most people didn’t get to the airport until 40 minutes before their flight. There were only six other passengers and our “private” jet was the easiest flight we have ever taken. At least it wasn’t Malaysian Airlines, which has a nasty reputation for disappearing into thin air. Next up… Georgetown, Penang!!!!
Kuala Lumpur, or KL as everyone calls it, is the capital of Malaysia and one of the biggest economic centers of southeast Asia. We got off our bus from Malacca at the TBS Station, one of the biggest transit stations we’ve scene, and navigated our way to the metro train which took us downtown to our hostel. We stayed at the Reggae Mansion, a giant party hostel near Chinatown that seemed to be the most popular place to crash. It was a little pricey but the bed price included free drinks at their rooftop bar and it was a good opportunity to meet other travelers.
We didn’t accomplish a whole lot in KL because of how much it rained while we where there. Mostly I just wanted to look at the towers. The Petronas Towers were the tallest buildings in the world when I was a child and were an inspiration for a lot of my engineering and architecture dreams.
Although not close to the tallest anything anymore, they were still very impressive especially at nighttime. There was also another huge tower which lit up with bright color-changing LEDs. They really know how to put on a light show in Asia (Singapore Supertrees and Malacca trishaws)! You could view them from the top of the Mansion so it was nice to play a game of pool and imagine the towers being built, the future looking down on the crumbling buildings beneath. The duality of the rich and poor, old and new is really quite striking especially in the big cities. People seem so excited to lurch ahead but don’t really stop to think about if they actually even should. But we’ll get more into this later.
Our first stop in Malaysia was Malacca. Conquered by the Portuguese in 1511, the town was one of the first sultanates and had already been a center of trade for hundreds of years. After the Portuguese the city had many other rulers including the Dutch, British, and the Japanese during WWII . The city is full of different architecture styles melting together the different cultures and was declared a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2008.
The city was quiet during the day but Friday-Sunday nights everything went out for the Jonker Walk Night Market. Everyone piled into the street for amazing food and lots of random stuff to buy. We tasted so many things and enjoyed ourselves a lot at the market.
Malacca also had a nice river where you could take boat cruises. It was either too hot or raining whenever we wanted to do it but we can’t do everything.
There were temples and churches and mosques all on the same streets, everyone living together in harmony. I know some other people in the world who could learn a think or two from that.
Here is a giant statue dedicated to Mr Malaysia, the pride of Malaysian bodybuilding.
We really enjoyed the laid back atmosphere of this city. It felt like a small town really. The food was fantastic and made us super excited to explore more of the country! Stay tuned for our trip to the big city, Kuala Lumpur!!!!